Thank you Deirdre for corralling everybody over to my “moving!” blog entry to comment on the show Thursday night while I was out. I’ll tell you all when the commenting issue on the new software is fixed.
Without all the set up from day one in New York, they chose to highlight more talent in Chicago. Far more talent.
And that made for a more entertaining two hours. We saw 16 people make it to Hollywood, twice as many as in New York. We saw only five bad ones. There wasn’t a situation liks Wednesdahy where the singer was closer but not quite there. Among my favorites; MacKenzie (country), Curtis (the gospel guy), Kez (fire performer) and Lazaro (stutterer).
If spoilers are to be believed, a mere three of them, though, make it to the final 40.
Mackenzie Wasner, 17, Leiper’s Fork, TN (“Whenever You Come Around” Vince Gill) – This blond country singer has a dad who plays keyboard for Vince Gill so she is not afraid of the stage. She brings the looks of Carmen Rasmussen (remember her?) with a sweet, pleasant tone that Keith Urban says evokes Dolly Parton, as well as LeAnn Womack. “You just blew my mind,” Nicki said. “You are a star.” “You’ve got this great blend of strength and vulnerability,” Keith said. I can’t imagine she won’t make it into the top 24 if she can maintain that level of performance.
Austin Earles, 19, Lakeview, MI (”Fantasy” Mariah Carey). Clearly, they brought him in for his pure ability to be tone deaf while mauling a Mariah song. Naturally, Nicki got sarcastic and said she loved it, annoying Mariah.
Kiara Lanier, 21, Chicago (”The Prayer” Celine Dion) – She didn’t try to over-sing the song from a power standpoint, giving the song far more nuance than Celine ever did. I enjoyed it – even with all the runs and I’m not typically a fan of too many runs. “You have so much control. soft and high, but pretty and beautiful.” Keith Urban said she had some Aaron Neville-esque feel in her runs. This is another person that could be a serious top 24 contender.
Stephanie Schimel, 20, Milwaukee, WI (“Dream a Little Dream” by Mama Cass) – I liked her. She brought some skills but was she as good as Kiara or MacKenzie. Not quite.”Carrie Underwood-Gwen Stefani mix,” Keith said. “I wasn’t wowed,” Nicki said. “Nothing jumped at me.” She gets three of the four judges’ votes to make it to Hollywood.
At this point, we see Mariah and Nicki go at it in a montage. At one point, Keith starts banging his head on the desk theatrically. “I feel like a scratching post!”
Melissa Bush , 27, Grandville, Mi (“Downtown” by Petula Clark) – She’s a mediocre karaoke singer but hardly an “Idol” contestant. They aired this primarily because they idiotically goofed with her last name. Really?
Gabe Brown , 21, Marion, IA (“Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones, “We All Die Young” Steel Dragon) – This Chris Sligh-ish looking dude was found during the small-town bus tour. Wow. This guy is loud! Crazy loud! Eardrum-piercing! But I can’t say that was good. His second song is a bit better. He’s fun, at least, and brings, as Keith said, heart. “I really like you,” Randy said. “When you’re doing your rock thing, I believe you,” Nicki said.
Kevin Nabity, 25 , Polk City, IA (“One Week” by Barenaked Ladies) – Joke contestant who loves Ninja Turtles, martial arts and dancing. I’m not sure singing was part of the equation. Pass.
Isabelle Parell, 15 , Centerton, IN (“Baby It’s Cold Outside” – Christmas classic) – She is a little dowdy looking but she shows confidence. I’m not sure she felt modern with this pick but was very likable. “You have a really sweet quality to you,” Mariah said. “You came in poised,” Nicki said. “You have this thing about you that is like a star.” (Interestingly, Randy said no but the other three were fans.)
Keith has to leave for a concert so they plant Randy between the ladies. There’s then a montage of guys Nicki slobbered over. Not fun. This leads to…
Griffin Peterson, 22, Oconomowoc, WI (“Wash by the Water” by NeedtoBreathe) - “Do you have a girlfriend?” Nicki asked him. “Is this a singing show?” Randy said. He looked nervous and lacks stage presence. Vocally, he’s nothing special either. While Nicki thinks he has “star” quality, I don’t. Mariah says there’s “potential.” “I didn’t get it,” Randy said. “The voice was just barely below average.” The two women outvote Randy. He won’t last in Hollywood.
Curtis Finch Jr., 24, St. Louis, MO (“God is Able” Smokie Norful) – We need a good gospel guy this year, eh? Raise the roof! This man made me smile. He’s a no brainer through to Hollywood.
Sob story #1. Mariah Pulice, 19, Darien, IL (“Let it Be” by the Beatles) – “I’m connecting with you because I didn’t know other Mariah’s’ growing up,” Mariah Carey said. She has battled anorexia. The producers showed restraint by waiting until hour two for the first sob story. “If there was no music, I wouldn’t be alive,” she said. That pain she harbors shows up in her lush voice. I am a fan. “I really really felt that song in you,” Nicki said.”Your spirit is coming out with your music.” Easy trip to Hollywood for her. Will she be able to handle the pressure?
Brandy Neelley, 17, Louisville, KY (“Your Cheating Heart” by Hank Williams) – She’s one of the “lifers” who has wanted to be on “Idol” for years. She brought this with panache and vocal power. An absolutely solid audition. “You’re super super special,” Nicki said. “The song choice was amazing, A-plus-azing,” Mariah said. She gets an easy ticket to Hollywood.
Four good contestants in a row including Josh Holliday (a spirited “Back at One” Brian McKnight), Courtney Williams (“Who’s Loving You” Jackson 5), Andrew Jones (a rockin’ “Knock on Wood” by Amii Stewart) and Clifton Duffin, 22, Country Club Hills, IL (”Superstar” Luther Vandross), who was never confident enough to sing to even his parents. He’s surprisingly good. He’s no Ruben Studdard but makes his parents happy.
Ieisha Cotton, Chicago, IL (“Thank You” Ashanti) – She dances a bit stripper like, then sings with no particular finesses. Very flat, very lame. “You’re tone deaf,” Randy said. Goodbye.
Johnny Keyser, 23, Pompano Beach, FL , “Try A Little Tenderness” Otis Redding – This is the dude I thought should have gone into the top 24 last year. Nicki pulls another “Do you have a girlfriend?” line. He brings more of his white soul and is charming again. “Johnny’s back,’ said Randy, who was the only one here a year ago. “You show you really want this and prove you’re really worth it. Hopefully you won’t crash and burn this time.” (Did he even crash and burn the first time?) Mariah says he has “star quality.” Will second time be a charm for Johnny in Hollywood?
Kez Ban, 27, Durham, NC (“I’ve Got No Strings” – Pinnochio and an original) Is this fire performer a big joke? Nope. Actually not. Though I can’t tell the gender of this person. He? She? I’ll guess she. I really liked her original song. Very singer songwriter. She has a voice that is worth listening to. “I can feel the realness in you,” Mariah said. “Very captivating,” Nicki said. “You took me into your world.” Off to Hollywood!
“Idol” does a “Les Miserables” take-off called “The Miserables.”
Close to done, we get a truly bad singer in Ashley Curry ( “Mama Knows Best” Jessie J) – This is all about wailing and volume. The opposite of control. She’s one of those classic deluded contestants. Mariah walks away. Security escorts her out.
Sob story supremo: Lazaro Arbos, 21, Arbos, FL (“Bridge Over Troubled Water” Simon and Garfunkel) – This vulnerable stutterer who was bullied in school, who felt completely isolated, opens up only as a singer. When I saw this during the preview last week in a movie theater, he got much applause. I can’t imagine he will win the show, he has as good a shot as any to make it far in Hollywood. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of him unless nerves truly get the best of him.